Retraining for a New Bike

By Peg Labiuk | 04/17/12

Andreas Kambanis, “Inside Camden Bike Shop Cloud 9 Cycles in London” June 9, 2011 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution.

We’ve teamed up with Marilyn Trout, certified USA Cycling Elite Coach to answer Voler Newsletter List members’ training questions. You can view her coach profile at Send your cycling inquiries to Marilyn, and for a limited time, if yours is selected to be answered in our Training column, Voler will send you a $20 gift certificate that can be used towards any purchase from the Voler Store at To submit your inquiry, e-mail her at, and type “Voler Training Question” in the subject line of the e-mail.

The following tip is a reprint of a 2010 question submitted by from Voler E-Mail List member Bill Grandi. His training question that follows was answered by Peg Labiuk (nee Peggy Maass), a colleague of Marilyn Trout, and a certified NCCP level 3 coach with a career in international road and track racing. She is a World Championship medalist, World Record holder, U.S. Olympic Team member, former British national team coach and Kreb's Cycle co-founder (British Columbia, Canada).

Retraining for a New Bike


Got a question for you. I have been riding a 62cm Bianchi that has been modified to fit my 6'5" frame for 11 years. I was never truly fitted correctly. Back in November I went to a bike shop (Bicycle Garage in Bloomington, IN) to be properly fitted. He put me through all the paces and has found a bike that he believes will be the one for me - a 64cm Trek 2.3. I am anticipating delivery sometime in January. My question though is one of concern: how do I "retrain" my legs, knees, etc for this new bike? The geometry is different. The size is different. He is suggesting new pedals and shoes. The last thing I want to do is get out there and do damage to my knees or shoulders or hands or feet by improperly training for the new ride. Any advice?

Thanks. I look forward to your answer.

Dear Bill,

Wow, Bloomington Indiana brings back fond memories.  So have you ridden all the routes from the movie Breaking Away?  For any newbies out there, this movie is a “must see” for any true cyclist.  But back to Bill’s question, adapting to a new bike is going to take some time.

Since you have already been for a fitting on your Bianchi, can I assume that some position changes were made and that you adapted to those without any problems?  If so, then it’s possible you’ll be able to duplicate the improved position on the Trek 2.3.  The other possibility is that you were not able to achieve your optimal position on your Bianchi and that’s why the Bicycle Garage suggested the 64 cm Trek.  In that case, you’ll have to adapt again to a position change once the new Trek is set up.

I’m also assuming that when your new bike arrives, you’ll go back to the Bicycle Garage to create the new set up.  I find it helpful to have the previous bike or at least the measurements of that position on hand, so bring your old bike or its measurements, including:

Seat height – measured from the center of the bottom bracket, following the seat tube, seat post, and wrapping over the seat to its center.  I know this is different than how most people measure to a straight line on top of the seat, but my method takes into account the profile of the seat and the fore-aft position of the seat on the rails.

Seat Setback – measure the fore-aft position of the saddle by dropping a plumb line from the nose of the seat and measuring from the line to the center of the bottom bracket. Make note if the nose of the saddle is titled up or down by using an angle finder across the top.

Reach – measure from the nose of the seat to the middle of the handlebars.  Note your stem length and if that too has an angle to it.

Here’s where the previous bike position comes in handy; if there is a difference between the two positions, then you’ll need to break in your body more slowly.  If, for example, you need to raise seat height more than ½ cm, you might consider doing so in stages to gently adapt your body to the increase.

Think of the adaptations as if you were returning to riding after an injury.  Start breaking in with a few easy, one-hour spins.  Obviously you’ll know right away if something isn’t set up right and causes pain.  Don’t wait to correct that.  Next, increase the ride volume gradually – by increasing the length of these easy rides by 20 minutes each time out.  Keep the same frequency as you had prior to the new bike.  For example, if you were riding 3-4 times/week, keep that schedule.  Build the time up to that of your normal rides, noting any unusual tightness after rides.  Give it two weeks of easy rides before you add any intensity.  By the end of three weeks or a dozen rides, you’ll know if the position is right for you.

If changes are necessary, it’s nice if you can make one change at a time and give it the three-week test before making additional changes.  That way you can track the cause and effect better.  The winter is a good time to work on a new position.  Since you have been in the same position for over a decade, your new bike will feel very different.  I went through that process myself a few years ago.  I didn’t wrap my handlebars for a few rides until I was sure of the placement of the brakes on the bars and the tilt of the bars.  Then I made one change at a time.  My back felt tight and you might think that I was too stretched out but the opposite was true.  As soon as I put a longer stem on, my back relaxed.  I was sure that my leg position was correct – that always takes precedence.  You should never move your seat position to affect your reach.  Reach is adjusted by changing stem height, length, or angle and the width of the bars.

Now, on top of adapting your muscles to the position, the bike will handle differently than your smaller frame.  I like to ride solo or with my trusted partner for the first rides until I get used to how your new bike responds.  Since you will be doing easy rides at first, it’s a good time to play with skills.  Test the braking, cornering, descending, shifting, even simply coasting.  It will be fun to explore this but it sure won’t be like your old fit, even if it’s an improved position and frame size.  You want to know it really well before you join larger, less predictable group rides.  Since it’s been a decade since you had a new bike, I’ll remind you to anticipate breaking in the cables. They will loosen with use and will need adjusting at about the three-week mark as well.  Give yourself some time to get comfortable with different cornering and responses such as standing on climbs.  I have included the frame geometry from the Trek website for the 2.3.  Although it’s not the same as your Bianchi, you can study the differences between the L and XL frames to get an idea of the differences you might encounter in your two bikes.  The new, larger frame will have a longer wheelbase.  Hopefully the ride will feel more comfortable, supporting your body better.  However, it may feel a bit “slower” to respond than your smaller frame, especially in corners.  Hopefully your body geometry will be better draped over this Trek and you’ll be more comfortable, more relaxed, and more efficient.



  Frame Size
  L (62cm) XL (64cm)
Head Angle 73.9° 74.0°
Seat Angle 72.5° 72.3°
Effective Top Tube 59.823.5 61.024.0
Chainstay 41.216.2 41.316.3
Bottom Bracket 26.810.6 26.810.6
Offset 4.01.6 4.01.6
Wheelbase 101.039.8 101.840.1
Trail 5.52.2 5.52.2
Standover 82.132.3 84.033.1
Seat Tube 59.323.3 61.324.1
Head Tube 23.09.1 25.09.8
Frame Reach 39.915.7 40.215.8
Frame Stack 63.324.9 65.325.7
Seat Height Minimum 75.529.7 78.530.9
Seat Height Maximum 85.533.7 88.534.8


blog comments powered by Disqus

New to Cycling? Voler has you covered with training tips and gear to get you started.  Find out More